Wednesday, May 15, 2013

MMOs I'm Playing: Marvel Heroes

Though it's still in beta, the NDA is lifted and I've been playing it quite a bit, so I figured that I could comment on Marvel Heroes thus far and how it's progressing.  I'll note the caveat that it's still beta and things can and will change.  The short version of my review is: I like it, but I can see it getting repetitive.

This MMO is brought to you by some of the people who created the Diablo series and the game plays a bit like it in terms of character movement, attacks, and powers/skills to a point.  So if you hated Diablo, this MMO may not be for you.  If you enjoyed Diablo, read on.

Important to note is that the game is free-to-play (no monthly subscription fee) with 100% of the content available to you whether or not you spend money in the game's store.  You'll be given a free hero to start with: Hawkeye, Daredevil, Scarlet Witch, The Thing, or Storm.  Beyond that you'll need to either get a lucky drop of another hero as loot or buy one that you want from the MMO store with real-life money.  Alternate costumes for your hero will also cost and otherwise you'll be able to buy temporary xp and other boosts from the store.  Otherwise, if you have the hero and costume that you want and the other stuff doesn't interest you, you never have to pay another cent again.

The thing that I like most about the game is that the developers did a good job of giving the heroes their comic book feel.  It was a little shaky at first, but through their patches it's really improved.  The characters' animations and quips as they go about daily life fighting crime and interacting with other heroes helps this a lot.

Some of the powers/skills seem shoehorned a bit, as if some of the devs got together and said, "This hero needs another skill, but I've already used everything that this guy/gal is known for" to which the others responded, "Just add a bleed/acid/etc to one that you already have even though it makes no sense for this character."  Then again, I haven't read all of the Marvel comics in existence, so maybe somewhere at sometime they used such a thing.  I just don't remember Spider-Man using corrosive webbing.  All in all, though, I think that that the skills/powers are a good representation of each of the heroes and keep to the character.

The fact that you can play any hero that you own (you get a hero to start with and then have to buy them, though there may still be loot drops of them) is both a great factor in this MMO and a bad one.  Good in that if you get bored with one hero, you simply switch to another and now you have a completely different play-style to enjoy.  And I do get the feeling that many people will enjoy MANY heroes and not just focus on the one.  The downside here is that heroes level separately, so if one of your main heroes is level 20 and you haven't played an alt before, they start out as level 1.  So the idea of just going from hero to hero in any step of the game isn't the case - your level 1, unequipped hero will get their butt kicked in that level 20 zone.  And that's pretty normal for MMOs, so why do I bring it up?  Simply because the game is very linear and if you really want to level up your alts you'll be doing the exact same content again and again.  Again, this is not out of the ordinary for MMOs, but with each hero being, in essence, its own class to try them all will be a bit boring over time.  It would have been nice to have two zones, for example, for the same level range as you went up so at least you could mix and match content as you went with each hero.

Now there's three basic styles of character in Marvel Heroes:

  • Ranged based: Mostly ranged with a melee skill or two thrown in (The Punisher, Hawkeye)
  • Melee based: Mostly melee with at least a token ranged ability that also works as the all-important movement skill to avoid enemy attacks (Wolverine, The Hulk)
  • Hybrid: A little melee and a little ranged with decent strength in both.  In my experience, if you take one of these characters with the idea of specializing in one or the other you'll be disappointed. (Deadpool, Black Widow)

I haven't played every single character, so there may be exceptions to the rule, but by and large in my gameplay this is what I've found to be the case.

As you go along, you'll get PLENTY of gear drops.  I really don't see why people level up the vendors that just sell you items (more on that shortly).  You'll find that items have their own naming convention that will tell you what the item does for you at a glance and if you want to get more of that, just keep equipping same-named gear.  Simple as that.  My only criticism of this very-MMO system is that the gear is a replacement for what the character has.  Spider-Man gets a new suit, Black Widow gets new widow's bites, and what have you.  Instead of replacing the whole thing, why not name the equipment Punisher Jacket Plates, Prototype Web-shooter Interlink, etc?  I know - silly criticism on that one, but to me it's more "realistic" than replacing the whole thing at the drop of a hat.

As for vendors, here's a pro-tip for you.  Don't bother leveling up the vendors that sell you things (equipment, etc), level up your crafting vendor.  You do this by donating gear that you find in your travels to them.  You get no money (you'll get more than enough in your adventures) but you will level them up in regards to your relationship with them and they'll give you better options.  Those crafting items that you find will now be able to be combined into better ones that will craft into better things, you'll get better consumables that you can only get from them, and you'll even be able to take your gear to higher levels or add boosts to them.  Very important, in my opinion.

I'd say that if that sounds good to you and the Marvel universe of heroes interests you, try this out when it goes live on June 4th of this year.  The game has even inspired me to pick up a comic book or two after a many-years hiatus.

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